Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Long Good-Bye

As I head into daycare to pick up Munch, I make sure that I have my phone, my keys, and that I don't need to pee--because this will not be a run-in, run-out situation.

Over the past several weeks, Munch has wanted more and more to "hang out" when I arrive at school. I wonder what other parents think of me as I sit on the rug in his room as Munch puts me in Circle Time and points at the ABCs poster and sings.

Most kids, when their parents arrive, run to them and then head for the door.

When I arrive, Munch smiles and hugs me, then tells me to go sit on the bench in the hallway, while he goes into "teacher mode," playing in his room and periodically sticking his head out of the door to make sure I'm still there. Eventually, I'll be invited in and we hang out in his room, sometimes for as long as 45 minutes, until it's time for his teacher to go home.

Most parents, when they arrive, swoop their kids into winter coats and hats and skedaddle with nary a look back, hardly a wave at the teacher. In and out. Gone. Places to be and things to do.

And I get that. Some nights, I too have places to be and things to do, not least of them being getting dinner done.

But more often the not, the place I'm whisking us off to be is home, and what does it matter if we get there a bit later than normal? Hubs usually doesn't get home until about 2 hours after I do. Thus, those 2 hours can seem like we're "on pause" waiting for Daddy and for the night to really begin (when, really, the night is nearly over, poor Daddy).

I don't mind the extended pickup. In fact, I'm grateful for it. I am not "offended" that Munch seems content to stay at daycare. I'm so relieved that he's comfortable and happy there. Putting him in daycare was an extremely difficult decision and transition for me, and the fact that he likes it is a blessing.

And, I see it as a way for Munchkin to share his day with me. He's bringing me into the world he inhabits for 8 hours a day. He's showing me how he spends his time and he's also "pretend playing" teacher. This is one of the most joyous aspects. He's "playing school " at school. He takes over his teacher's chair and she gives him the pointer she uses and he "teaches" us. The teacher even joins me on the floor as a "student."


I see this as "showing up" for him. It's a simple thing we do, but I think it fulfills something in him. And it definitely fulfills something in me as I get to hear him say "A is for apple, V is for violin" and sing the daily songs. He's growing up! And I'm getting a peak at all the things he's learning.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Consequences and Coping

Lately, I've been thinking about the consequences of our actions and words, taking responsibility for those consequences, and sitting with negative emotion rather than fighting against it.

My son is at the age when he's beginning to be able to understand consequences. This is hard for me. It's about him pushing limits and as parents being strong enough to follow through on a consequence. For instance, when Munch repeatedly pokes a balloon with something sharp (I mean, not like scissors for God's sake) or lays on top of it and we say he will pop it if he continues, then he continues and pops it, I cannot run out to get him another balloon to stop the ensuing devastation. Actions have consequences.

My mother-in-law has told the story of when Hubs, in a bit of a rage, threw his favorite Garfield toy across the room and the plastic eyes split down the center. Hubs was devastated. He learned, actions have consequences.

Shit happens. And sometimes, we cause the shit to happen. It is hard for many people, myself included, to accept the consequences of our actions, and to "force" others to face the consequences of theirs.

As a mother, as the type of person I am, my instinct is to soothe soothe soothe. And of course when Munch does something dumb and REGRETS it, of course I can soothe him and hug him. But I can't always--and shouldn't always--fix it for him.

When something happens TO him, it will likely be even harder for me. When he doesn't make a team or a friend hurts him, I'm not going to be able to fix that either. I won't be able to remove the negative emotion.

I have an incredibly hard time sitting with feeling bad or angry or anything negative. In my brain, negative = bad = no love. If a family member is angry at me, it used to be, I would roil with anxiety and wring my hands and figure out how to "fix it," even if it wasn't truly my problem to "fix." Now, I'm working on it, trying to be better at COPING.

The ability to cope is one of the biggest gifts I can give my child. The ability to process a problem ON HIS OWN and come up with a resolution or at least lay those bad feelings to rest without pushing them away. This is what leads to a well-rounded adult with a healthy emotional range.

Smoothing out his life will not lead to him being able to cope. Life is hard, life sucks sometimes. He will have to learn that, FEEL THAT, experience that. And know that some problems will be his to figure out on his own, with Hubs and me as a constant soft place to fall when his efforts are not enough and his burdens grow too large. We will be the place to refuel and regroup, so he can dive back in again. This is what I want for my child, what I'm working to give him.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The World Closes In

Yesterday, when I picked Munch up from daycare, he was cowering behind his favorite teacher because he was scared that another boy was screaming.

Munch is in a big "scary" phase right now. Over the weekend, we removed a lamp from his room because it cast a shadow he didn't like. Last night, he wanted a Mickey-head-shaped bottle of bubbles out. And right before bed, a book was banished because it was on his nightstand, which is usually clear, and was "scary." All these items were banished to "Mommy Daddy's" room.

And, admittedly, a severed Mickey head sitting on your shelf may not be the most comforting thing.

So when I got to daycare and found him scared, I wasn't surprised. His teacher, whom I really enjoy and who truly cares for Munch, said, "I told him, 'Be a man, don't be scared.' "

And I smiled a frozen smile, bent over, ran my hand over Munch's head, and said, "It's okay to be scared, everything is okay." My standard line.

And his teacher immediately said, "Oh yes honey, it's okay to be scared."

So many people are going to tell Munch so many things. And I can't stop that. So many people are going to influence his outlook. I know that as his parents, Hubs and I will have a huge role in how he sees the world, but others' views will get in there too.

In this teacher's household or worldview, men may not show fear.

In my household, men feel fear and are free to show it because that's what makes them strong men. Not being afraid to show fear or sadness or loneliness or hope.

There will be other things: Right now, Munch loves pink. He invariably picks the pink ball. He gets whatever ball he wants. And I feel myself bracing inwardly because I know, someday, someone will say, "Boys don't like pink. Get a blue ball."

And will Munch brush this off and say, well, I like pink so I'm getting the pink ball? Or, will he tuck something fundamental down inside himself and stick with blue or green or brown?

He will learn things that "society" believes. Skinny is good and fat is bad. Only weak men cry. If you're not first, you're last. Only dorks read. Coloring is for girls. Don't laugh too loud.

And I will run to sweep up the dregs of these bullshit statements, counter them as best I can by modeling strong beliefs and having open conversations and reassuring Munch that if he likes Sophia the First or Cinderella, then BY GOD WATCH IT.

But the world is many and I am one. And Munch will be who he will be.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

There and Back Again

About a week ago, I sat next to my sunscreened husband on a catamaran boat, our legs swinging over the side as we watched the sun set over the Caribbean Sea. The air was warm and breezy, the drinks refreshing, the sea clear and blue.



Hubs and I just spent 7--but really 9 because of travel times--days and nights away from our little Munch. It was our 12th anniversary on February 1, and it was a perfect way to spend it.

Not to sound ungrateful, (bear with me) but this is not a trip I asked for. In fact, when Hubs called me a year ago and said he'd won the trip in a drawing at work, I immediately began to cry.

Because I knew. I knew I would "have" to go. And I knew Munch would not be.


Winning a trip as a mother is not the same as winning a trip as a free-wheeling single lady (disclaimer: I have never been this person, but I imagine it's not the same). First thoughts were not of snorkeling and excursions and how many bathing suits to bring but OH MY GOD I CAN NEVER SPEND THAT MUCH TIME AWAY FROM MUNCH. I felt panicky and scared and sad.

There was a lot of motherly guilt thrown in at the beginning of trip planning: A mother "shouldn't" "abandon" her child to go off on a vacation. A mother "shouldn't" be able to spend 9 nights away while her son was in the capable hands of another. A mother "shouldn't" "want" to do these things.

And I always get a bit of a twinge when I hear statements from mothers like, "In 15 years, I've never spent a night away from my children." It's a bit of a badge of honor but also sacrifice. To not be in that club, well, frankly it makes me sometimes feel like I'm selfish or I must not care about my kid as much. I know these are false feelings, but they are the ones I hear whispering at night.

But. I've talked before about how I am desperately in love with my husband. We want to believe that this is a "given" and a "duh" in marriage, but I've seen enough marriages that prove this is not the case. But I do love Hubs, like love him, and it's always been extremely important to me for our children to witness this love. We love to be together. And while we love to parent together, this is different from "being" together. Relaxing together.

Hubs and I had not been on a Caribbean vacation where we didn't know another person since our honeymoon, 7 years ago.

Through good, hard work and a lot of support from my family (and, of course, my counselor), I put those "motherly guilt" statements aside. I worked to replace them with statements about how important it is for a husband and a wife to spend one-on-one time together, especially when both are working parents. How important it is for our son to see us enjoy spending time together. How important for our son to know he can spend time away from us, have a great time away from us in fact, and learn how that is okay and normal and good. How important for Munch to know that we can go away and come back.

And so we went. My biggest hurdles were the plane trips. I was terrified, despite all my logic-thinking. "Turbulence is normal." "Flying is a safe mode of travel." I was a mess both travel days, until wheels down in our final destination cities. My panic only heightened as we got closer to seeing Munch again--I wanted it so much, I was sure I wouldn't get to. But, of course, we did.

And it was wonderful seeing our Munch again. He was excited, we were excited. He had such fun at gramma and grampa's, and I thank my in-laws to high heaven for taking such amazing care of him--I never once worried about how he was doing, and that in itself is a blessing. We've had some transition bumps the past few days, like at night when he holds my hand and whispers over and over "Mommy, no go leave." Some meltdowns ("Mommy say no to me."). But, mostly all is back to normal. This is good for him to see, but also good for me to see.

I did it! I made it. It may seem strange to feel a sense of accomplishment after merely going on vacation, which I know we were truly blessed to do, but I do feel proud. Now, with a snowstorm bearing down, St. Lucia is a distant memory, almost as if it was a dream. Did I really lie on the beach for 7 straight hours a day? Did I wear my bathing suit and flip flops? Does the resort really exist?

They are memories Hubs and I will cherish, and we're committed to making vacations like these priorities in the coming years. And, similar to how I feel as a working mom, being away from and subsequently back with Munch has made me appreciate him all the more. The way he smiles and jumps 11 times in a row and plays with my hair and kisses our cats. I am thankful and grateful for the time away, and for coming back to my normal routine.
Mama’s Losin’ It

Friday, January 24, 2014

Introducing, the Slop Dog

Sometimes, memories live in tastes.

A couple years ago, I asked for family members to share with me some of their "iconic" recipes (shoutout to my sister for gathering them all for a very thoughtful Christmas present!). In my paternal grandma's batch was something called "Ham and Cheese Rolls." This did not ring a bell for me, and I found it odd she'd included it with her lemon squares and lasagna.

This past Christmas, I connected the dots.

At one family gathering, my mom was concocting what appeared to be the weirdest amalgamation of ingredients into one huge bowl. I saw chopped ham, mayo, chili sauce, cubed cheese, and hard boiled eggs. It was all mixed together and then put into hot dog buns, wrapped in foil, and baked.

I was like, where did these come from?

My mom said, "Grandma used to make them all the time. She called them ham and cheese rolls, but your dad always called them slop dogs."

The latter seemed very apt. Looking at the now-melted mush of ingredients, I can see why my 6-year-old self didn't go crazy over these things. I mean, hard boiled egg??

I took a bite. And there it was. I knew this taste, vaguely, but there it was. My older sister said my grandma used to make them on New Year's Eve, and I remember them now, their smell and texture. I have a feeling I only tasted them once or twice as a kid, but it's not a taste you forget.

It is unique. It is odd. It is good. Over the course of my time at my mom's for Christmas, I polished off many a slop dog. Try them for your next picnic.

Ingredients

1/2 pound cubed ham
1/2 pound cubed sharp cheese
1/3 cup sliced green onion
2 hard cooked eggs
1/2 cup sliced stuffed olives (we may have skipped these)
3 Tbs mayonnaise
1/2 cup chili sauce

Directions

Combine all ingredients. Pile mixture into split hot dog rolls.

Wrap in foil - Twist ends securely.

Place on grill over medium coals, turning frequently. OR Bake in hot oven 20-30 minutes, 350 degrees.

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Inspired by the prompt, "Share a recipe that everyone in your family loves" in Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Bloom Is Off the Rose

Hello from Week 3 of January commitments. This is the first week I've felt moderately blah about my fitness and food efforts. There are reasons for this, besides the fact that motivation ebbs at times--I have a cold that has me exhausted and sneezy, Munchkin is hoarse and I'm stressing it will turn into something that requires a doctor's visit. And my back tweaked again and that is always annoying. Last night was the first night when I felt, seriously, that's ALL the calories I get??? I just wanted to munch and graze.

BUT, I didn't. I had just enough calories for dinner and I didn't have a sweet snack afterwards. This is nigh a miracle! Keep on, keepin on.

  • Track all my food. Still doing. I lost 3.4lbs this week for a total of 14.7. Not too shabby. 
  • Get at least 8,000 steps a day. Doin it, though it has been a challenge with this cold. I am not able to step it up at all like at the gym, so I'm doing a lot of walking around the house at night. That also means, I'm right around 1,200 calories a day and that is a challenge as well.
  • Take the stairs. Yes to the stairs, though I took the elevator once because I had to print something before a meeting and the clock was ticking and again because I was carrying 50lbs of bags and with my back I didn't think it was smart to haul them up 9 floors.
  • Meditate 5 days a week, even for just 5 minutes. Missed one day this week, but still going.
  • Floss. What's flossing?
 This week marks the last one before vacation! One more big push until a much-needed break.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Still Going Strong

Week 2 of January commitments to getting healthy went very well. Here's the rundown:

  • Track all my food. Still doing, and it's getting easier now that I've become familiar with the calorie count for many of my go-to foods--not so much looking up. I was pleasantly informed by my weekly FitBit report that I ate 7,000 calories less than I burned this week--that's exactly on point for eating 1,000 calories less than I burn each day, the goal for 2lb weight loss a week. This week, I lost 6.8lbs for a total of 11.3lbs. I know this is faster than recommended, but when I was "on" during my big weight loss in 2001, I did lose quickly. And, my weight fluctuates daily (I'm weighing myself every day), and so tomorrow I very well could be up 2lbs. I'm just going with it, knowing that I'm doing my best with food and ...
  • Get at least 8,000 steps a day. ... walking! I am LOVING the walking. I haven't always been a fan, but I am really enjoying it now. Last week, I averaged over 10,000 steps a day. I also did some harder jogging at the gym a couple times, but I'm really focused on the step total.
  • Take the stairs. Still rocking the stairs. I can't say it's getting easier, but I haven't been in the elevator for like 10 days. It's nice.
  • Meditate 5 days a week, even for just 5 minutes. Yep. I still don't know if it's doing anything, but I'm trusting it.
  • Floss. #Fail. Once this week.
This weekend poses some challenges, as we're going out to lunch with some friends, and it's another friend's birthday. I'm mentally prepped, but encountering these things is different from thinking about them. But I will succeed!